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Obama to Unveil Picks for EPA, Energy Department

March 4, 2013
The Wall Street Journal
TENNILLE TRACY And KEITH JOHNSON

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama is expected to announce Monday his picks to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, selecting a veteran regulator and a noted academic to lead a pair of agencies responsible for driving U.S. energy policies.

Mr. Obama is expected to select Gina McCarthy, the current head of the EPA's clean-air office, to lead the environmental agency, an administration official said. For the Energy Department, Mr. Obama is expected to name Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Ernest Moniz.

The nomination of Ms. McCarthy, a Boston native who served under Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, reflects Mr. Obama's stepped-up focus on climate change.

Ms. McCarthy has pushed through some of Mr. Obama's most controversial environmental rules, including a set of greenhouse-gas standards that critics say go beyond the scope of the EPA's authority. Her office is currently writing a rule to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from new power plants. The rule would effectively forestall the construction of coal-fired units unless new technology becomes available.

The confirmation process could be challenging for Ms. McCarthy. The EPA is a polarizing agency that often attracts criticism from Republicans. Ms. McCarthy herself has been at the center of rules that have been challenged in court, including the greenhouse-gas standards.

Even before her formal nomination, some Republican lawmakers were expressing concern, as both Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Moniz emerged several weeks ago as the top contenders for these posts.

Mr. Moniz, a nuclear physicist, served in the Energy Department under President Bill Clinton. He is the director of MIT's Energy Initiative and sits on Mr. Obama's council of scientific advisers.

If confirmed, Mr. Moniz could play a role in deciding whether to allow energy companies to export U.S. natural gas. In his current role, Mr. Moniz was the co-chairman of a 2011 study that found "there are substantial economic benefits to a global natural gas market" and said "the U.S. should not erect barriers to natural-gas imports or exports."

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